Jane Benham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and then some personal memories of Arthur and Sylvia Cox.

Jane Benham MBE (28 January 1943, Colchester, Essex – 9th June 1992, Colchester) was instrumental in the formation and operation of the East Coast Sail Trust, a charitable institution devoted to both character building for young people through sail training, and preservation of Thames sailing barges. The Trust has been running now for over 40 years, during which time many thousands of young people from all over Britain and indeed around the world, have benefited from the unique experience that is provided. A mark of the impact she made is the institution of an annual memorial lecture in her honour, which continues today.


1 Schoolship scheme
2 Achievements
3 Artist and benefactor

Schoolship scheme

400px-Sailing_Barge_Thalatta_River_Blackwater_2004Sailing Barge Thalatta in the River Blackwater

The Trust owned and operated two sailing barges (known in the Trust as schoolships) the 150 burthen ton Thalatta and the 200 ton Sir Alan Herbert, both coasting spritsail barges, rigged with ketch mizzens. The latter vessel was procured through an appeal made in memory of the famous humourist, novelist, playwright and one-time MP, A.P. Herbert.

The Trust continues to operate today, based at Maldon, Essex and the sailing barge Thalatta underwent a major overhaul and rebuild at the barge yard at St Osyth, largely supported by lottery funding. The name Thalatta originates from the Greek word meaning the sea. The Sir Alan Herbert is no longer in the hands of the Trust, and has reverted to her original name, Lady Jean.


Jane Benham was a major figure in development of the Trust’s work, personally carried out much of the administration and served as First Mate of the Thalatta. In this endeavour, she worked closely with John Kemp, founder of the Trust, master mariner and author; and his wife, Monica Kemp. The programme was dubbed ‘A Week in Another World’. During their stay on board the schoolships, children and their accompanying teachers or youth leaders explored the east coast within the area North Foreland in the south to Orfordness in the north, living on board and working the vessels under sail.

Jane Benham was awarded the MBE for her work with the East Coast Sail Trust.

Artist and benefactor

She was also a prolific and accomplished artist, painting mainly small works in oils, acrylic and watercolour, principally of Essex coastal scenes.

She was a strong and generous supporter of several charities, as well as a number of individuals whose hardship came to her notice.

Jane Benham was the daughter of Hervey Benham, former editor of the successful Essex County Standard newspaper and prolific author of books, in particular about sailing and shipping on the east coast.

She was brought up in Fingringhoe and West Mersea, Essex; and educated at St Mary’s School, Colchester and St Felix School, Southwold. When not at sea she lived during most of her life at Maldon, Essex. Jane Benham died from cancer, aged 49, in 1992.

End of extracts from Wikipedia.
There is a bench in the Friary Walled Garden, Maldon, in memory of John Kemp, skipper of the Thalatta.

Personal memories of Arthur and Sylvia Cox.
Jane was instrumental in saving the Friary Walled Garden (FWG) from destruction. I (Arthur) spent many happy days there with her, both of us quietly gardening and just occasionally chatting and planning.

Occasionally, things would happen, (both materially and financially) and these were always attributed to “the pixies”. Anonymous donations would arrive when cash was needed.

Despite suffering from cancer herself, she was very supportive to Sylvia when Sylvia had cancer for the second time in 1992. A very great help indeed.

Sylvia recalls one particular day early in 1992 (26th February) when Jane phoned and told us to meet her at the village of Birch. We did that and she showed us a large bed of snowdrops growing wild in a field. She held Sylvia and they danced along the lane together. Then to a pub The Crown (now gone) in Broad Street Green where she had organised a lunch for a group of friends. That lunch was a “farewell” from a lovely lady.  Then we went to Jane’s aunt’s house in Goldhanger village and had tea with aunt Maura Benham. Later that day Sylvia and I went to meet Jane on the Thalatta in Maldon (see below).

Apart from seeing her by chance in a hospice, the last time we saw Jane looking well was sitting on the Thalatta that evening at the Hythe, Maldon, with Gary the Skipper and watching the sunset and chatting.

At her funeral in Maldon, I read a poem by Francis Bacon – “On Gardens”

I do not have many pictures of Jane Benham but one that Sylvia and I rather like was taken in the Friary Walled Garden in Maldon.

FWG-group(1)Sylvia is sitting on the John Kemp bench and holding the baby, the daughter of Ken Hoyle who is cutting the box hedge.
I (Arthur) am standing in the centre and Jane in the straw hat is giving directions about the hedge trimming. Hanging on the crab apple tree is a drawing done by Jane and showing a “typical” medieval walled garden. The photographer was Dawn Baldwin, the baby’s mother.

While Sylvia and I were away on a holiday in Turkey at that time, I had a strange and unforgettable dream about Jane.  Such a vivid a dream and I wrote it down in my holiday notes. When we returned home we found that Jane had died.


For other items, return to INDEX

You may leave a comment below – it will be added to these pages when it has been approved.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s